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The Message of the Old Testament,by Mark Dever (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006), 959 pp., hardback $26.99
This volume is quite similar to Dever’s earlier work on the New Testament, with the same positives and negatives (see review on The Message of the New Testament). The Message of the Old Testament, like its predecessor, provides one transcribed sermon per biblical book, as originally preached by Dever at the church he pastors. The idea is worthy but it proves in practice more difficult with the Old Testament than the New. Some Old Testament books are so massive and their message so foundational to the faith that only one sermon barely touches the highlights (think Genesis, Psalms or Isaiah). Others are so small and relatively insignificant that a full message hardly seems warranted. To devote one message to Jeremiah or Exodus and one to Zephaniah or Obadiah seems out of balance. Since I was using Dever’s book as an aid to my own overview sermon series through the Old Testament, I solved this problem to my own satisfaction by preaching up to four messages on a few of the larger books. The end result was about twice as many sermons as Dever (75 vs. 36). This enabled me to get around one of the weaknesses of Dever’s approach (and book) as I see it, and that is superficially rushing through too much wonderful material in one sermon. Because of the nature of Dever’s approach, I found relatively little in the book that I used in my own sermon preparation. Nevertheless, I appreciated the model; most of the comments are on target and reading the volume was a good primer for my own study. Of course, the book should not be seen as a detailed commentary but for what it is: overview messages. Dever’s Covenantal Theology is more evident in this work than the last, especially in the prophetic books. Overall, however, I would comment that The Message of the Old Testament is helpful for pastors and teachers looking to survey the Old Testament.